A Brief History of the First United Methodist Church of Deposit
“Deposit is a quiet little village situated partly in Delaware County and partly in Broome County, on the direct line of the Delaware River, one hundred and seventy seven miles from the city of New York. It was for many years a place of deposit for the lumber brought in from the surrounding country; hence the name of Deposit. The scenery about the village is beautiful in the extreme. The waters of the Delaware and Oquaga Rivers, the lofty mountains and beautiful valleys, combine to make Deposit a very attractive place to those who can appreciate charming natural scenery.”
These words were taken from an issue of the Christian Advocate on August 1, 1872. Almost one hundred fifty years later, Deposit remains a small village surrounded by the beauties of nature. The First United Methodist Church in this village has a long and interesting history dating from the colonial days.
As the American colonies grew rapidly, Colonial Methodism spread. As small communities rarely had enough members to build a church, the colonists were served through itinerant preachers who rode from village to village on a circuit. The symbol of a circuit rider astride a horse has endured through the years to symbolize that era.
The Methodist Society in Deposit was organized during this time period. Deposit became a preaching station in 1830. Alexander Calder was Deposit’s first itinerant preacher. He served the Delaware Circuit, which included preaching stations from Middletown to Windsor. Calder ministered to approximately thirty organized Methodist Societies by traveling on foot and horseback through heavily wooded terrain.
By 1833 the population within the Delaware Circuit had increased rapidly, and the Methodist Societies had more than doubled in number. The circuit divided in order to decrease the travel distances of the preachers. The Deposit Circuit was formed, comprised of the following churches: Cannonsville, Hancock, Masonville, Sidney Plains, Downsville, Harvard, Long Eddy, and Shavertown. This circuit continued until 1849 when Deposit became a separate charge. Eighteen circuit preachers served Deposit over this span of nineteen years.
The first Methodist Society in Deposit was organized on November 2, 1830. It was called the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Tompkins and had a membership of twelve. The society met in the schoolhouse, the building generally used for religious gatherings. Five trustees were elected: Ruggles B. Young, William Walker, Jr., and Matthew Brown of the Town of Tompkins and Mayor Gilbert Dickinson and Charles Demander of the Town of Sanford.
In 1831 plans were made to construct a Meeting House. Subscriptions totaling $455 were made by 37 people. The trustees bought a site on Front Street for $75. That part of Deposit was then in the Town of Tompkins but is now in the Town of Deposit. The final cost of the Meeting House was $900. That building supplied Deposit Methodism for the next forty years. In 1872 the building was sold to the Episcopalians for $1,000. They eventually built a new Episcopal Church, but the building still stands today. It is the site of the local Masonic Lodge.
The impetus to build a new church came in 1870 and is largely attributed to a dynamic pastor named Reverend Josiah Sims. The old church building would not accommodate the many people who came to hear his excellent sermons. So in 1872 trustees purchased two acres of land on the corner of Dean and Second Streets at a cost of $1,250. The current church building was completed at a cost of $15,000. It is constructed of brick and trimmed with Syracuse stone, with two towers and stained glass windows. It will comfortably seat 500 people. The membership, which numbered 165 at that time, was very pleased with their magnificent new church.
The church was dedicated on July 10, 1872 with great ceremony. A parsonage was built in 1877. The original church building had three doors in front. In 1897 the middle door and gallery were taken out of the church and the center part of the vestibule was added to the sanctuary. The stained glass window of the gallery was lowered to its present position and a round window containing the Star of David was placed above it. This unique feature was a gift from Jacob Bassin, a Jewish local merchant who used the building as a synagogue on Saturdays.
The pipe organ of the Deposit Methodist Church was added in 1900. It cost $1,200 at that time. The current choir loft was also built at the time of the organ installation. The organ has been repaired and refurbished several times but remains to this day an impressive and beautiful part of the church interior.
As membership increased from the 1940s through the 1960s, the need for additional space became apparent. Plans were made to enlarge the existing church parlor and to add seven Sunday School rooms, a church office, restrooms, and a modern kitchen. This addition cost approximately $40,000. The men of the church did much of the finishing work. The addition was dedicated on September 22, 1964 as a memorial to Miss Grace V. Beilby, a loyal and generous church member.
Since its inception the church has undergone several name changes. The original name of Methodist Episcopal Church was changed to the Methodist Church in 1939. In 1968 the name changed to the United Methodist Church.
Through the years the Deposit United Methodist Church has offered many opportunities for Christian Fellowship beyond weekly worship services. Some of these have included: Bible Study classes, Sunday school classes, Youth Fellowship, Vacation Bible School, the United Methodist Women’s Club, and annual Christmas cantatas. The First United Methodist Church is an active member of the Deposit Council of Churches, joining with other denominations to offer Lenten services, an annual Easter cantata, and community outreach work.